Deed theft can be an alarming and worrisome concept for homeowners, as a home is often the most expensive investment you will make in your lifetime. However, this type of crime is relatively rare and requires considerable effort from the criminals involved. A knowledgeable real estate lawyer in Lancaster, PA, can help you understand why deed protection isn’t necessary and how the complexity of the process deters criminals.
When you contact us at May Herr & Grosh, you can schedule a consultation to speak to a real estate law expert with the knowledge and experience to navigate all aspects of real estate law in Lancaster, PA, and the rest of Pennsylvania. However, before you call, please take a few moments to review some of the facts about deed theft and its reality.
What is Deed Theft, and Who Does it Affect?
Deed theft is a fraudulent act in which criminals illegally transfer property ownership without the rightful owner’s knowledge or consent. This crime involves forging legal documents, including deeds and signatures, to make it appear that the property has been legitimately transferred to the thief or a third party. The primary goal of deed thieves is to gain control of the property, to sell it, rent it out, or obtain loans against it, leaving the actual owner with potential financial and legal problems.
Victims of deed theft are often vulnerable individuals, such as older adults, those facing foreclosure, or absentee property owners. Perpetrators take advantage of these individuals’ situations, sometimes by offering false assistance or posing as a legitimate business or government agency.
Deed theft can be a complicated and time-consuming process for criminals, but if successful, it can cause significant distress and financial loss for the victims. To combat deed theft, it’s crucial for property owners to regularly monitor their property records, set up fraud alerts, and consult with a real estate lawyer when necessary.
The Complexity of Deed Theft
Deed theft is not a simple, straightforward process. It involves multiple steps and the forging of various legal documents. Criminals must create fake deeds, forge signatures, and navigate the complex world of property records to pull off such a scheme.
If there is still a mortgage on the home, they also have to create false documents to discharge the mortgage and take on the financial responsibility themselves. This level of complexity often deters criminals from attempting deed theft in the first place, as there are easier targets for their illegal activities.
Are There Any Legal Consequences to Deed Theft?
Yes, there are significant legal consequences for those who engage in deed theft. This fraudulent activity is considered a serious crime, and perpetrators can face severe penalties if caught and convicted. The specific charges and penalties may vary depending on the jurisdiction, but they often include charges such as forgery, fraud, and identity theft. In some cases, criminals may also be charged under real estate-specific laws that address the illegal transfer of property ownership.
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The punishments for deed theft convictions can be quite harsh, ranging from substantial fines and restitution to lengthy prison sentences. These penalties aim to deter potential criminals from pursuing this type of crime and provide justice for the victims affected by such illegal activities. To further combat deed theft, many counties and states have implemented fraud alert systems and other measures to help protect property owners and ensure the integrity of property records.
The severe legal consequences associated with deed theft also serve as a deterrent, which makes deed theft less likely to occur. The risk often outweighs the potential rewards for criminals considering this type of crime.
How Can You Prevent Deed Theft Yourself?
You can prevent deed theft and keep an eye on your properties for free. Property records are publicly available and can be easily accessed by homeowners. Regularly reviewing your property records can help ensure that no unauthorized changes have been made to your deed.
Many counties have fraud alert systems in place that notify homeowners of any changes to their property records, which you may be able to sign up for, for your property. These measures make it much more challenging for criminals to commit deed theft successfully.
The Role of a Real Estate Lawyer
A real estate lawyer in Lancaster, PA, can offer invaluable support and expertise in helping you safeguard your property. They can educate you on the importance of regularly monitoring your property records and walk you through the process of setting up fraud alerts. Furthermore, they can assist you in addressing any discrepancies or issues with your property records.
While deed theft is a concerning crime, it’s essential to remember that it is rare and requires considerable effort from criminals. Stay vigilant, regularly monitor your property records, and consult with a real estate lawyer to ensure peace of mind when it comes to your property ownership. If you need help from property lawyers, contact us at May Herr & Grosh today. We will help ease your mind.